Building Community for Millennials and Gen Z for Your Gym or Studio

Fitness Industry

You own a gym or boutique studio, you have a great “in real life” culture and sense of community, you’re trying to figure out the right answer for hosting that community online.

For most gyms and studios, the typical answer for quite a while has been Facebook Groups.  Even the big connected fitness offerings like Peloton and Tonal have very active Facebook groups, which are currently their main environments for community.

Facebook Groups have some great advantages:

  1. They’re free.
  2. They are designed for interest groups with a bunch of features designed for community.
  3. They allow administration by an owner.
  4. They can be open (public) or private - requiring admin approval to join.
  5. Lots of people have been using Facebook.

Facebook Groups also have some disadvantages:

  1. They have ads, and given Facebook’s laser marketing algorithms, there’s a strong likelihood that your direct competitors will be advertising on Facebook.
  2. There’s no automated way to connect any data from your own apps and platform into Facebook groups, so one of your staff has to keep posting regularly or it can get stale.
  3. People under 30 aren’t using Facebook, even people in their 30s are less frequent users now.

This last point must be keeeping the Zucks awake at night.

TechCrunch recently published an article entitled US teens have abandoned Facebook, Pew study says.  It included this chart from the Pew study:

So to pick an obvious statistic, the number of teens who say they never use Facebook went from 29% in 2014-5 to a whopping 68% this year - over two thirds!

This transition has actually been happening for a while.  Bill Gurley, a legendary venture capital investor and early investor in Snapchat, summarized it well in an interview back in 2013 (I was actually said in the audience when he said this):

We have some fundamental beliefs about why Snapchat's working. A lot of younger people feel like Facebook's — what we heard from younger people is that Facebook is LinkedIn to them. And what they mean by that is the permanence of it and who can see it — their mother and teacher and their neighbor, and they just wanted a place to communicate that didn't have that element that lack of privacy.

TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat are the new places that teenagers and even millennials are hanging out - Facebook is for their parents.

I was chatting to a friend who’s over 40 last week, she’s a semi-official Facebook influencer for F45, she told me that a member of the F45 Facebook group, she only ever goes into the platform so that she can post into that group - other than that, she lives in Instagram.

The problem is that Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok don’t really have an equivalent to Facebook Groups:

  • Instagram’s groups are simple messaging groups, and Instagram pages for boutiques are just photo galleries.
  • Snapchat’s main thing is that all posts will last for only 24 hours. There is basic group messaging but no library to look back on.
  • Like Instagram, Tiktok has simple messaging groups with no proper member engagement within a page to share pics or threads.

Bottom line is that all three are much lighter weight and more minimalist compared to Facebook’s never ending set of menus and functionalities:

So … what to do?

Well if your goal as a gym or boutique studio is to appeal to people under the age of 40, the answer is probably to move off Facebook.

It is interesting to see how some of the big fitness brands are thinking about this problem.  According to the New York Times, Peloton’s new CEO “thinks Peloton should look at developing: its own social-media platform” as well as “more seamless ways for members to interact and compete with each other during classes”.  That would be some flamboyant moves in this market, but it highlights the limitations of what they have right now in their Facebook group.

Let’s just state the obvious that inventing your own social network is a total nonstarter for pretty much every brand in the fitness world, especially if you’re a small business with zero dollars to pay for inventing software.

At Tribe, we do think there are advantages to having social capabilities in the platform that you use for your digital / online presence:

  1. It increases the capabilities and stickiness of your own branded app experience.
  2. Membership can be automatically tied to your studio member logins, versus having to be a totally separate membership system that you have to manage.
  3. It can tie to live data from your own studio - like participation in challenges, and data from metrics.  So it stays fresh without you having to keep posting all the time.
  4. An in-app community can better understand your own community structure, which is particularly important for multi-location and franchised brands.
  5. Your direct competitors can’t advertise to your members - you control it.
  6. It gets you away from being tied to your members' parents' social media platform.

At Tribe we have some exciting roadmap functionality in this area, that you’ll likely start to see live in the first half of 2023.  Stay tuned, or talk to us now to find out more …

Ranessa Santos

Head of Operations
Live. Laugh. Love. (And do yoga!)

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